Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Guest post by Womagwriter Sharon Boothroyd

Today's guest is Sharon Bothroyd.

When I began writing seriously in 2010, I began to focus on the fiction market for women's magazines. 

As I became more involved in it, I discovered that several of these short story writers had also enjoyed publishing success with letters in national magazines. More importantly, they'd been paid a small fee for their efforts. If there was no fee, a prize was offered instead. I thought, Why don't I have a go a that?

So I did, and eagerly began to send letters in. My spirits were high. Surely I'd see my name and piece in print somewhere? But no. Sadly, I didn't get anywhere at all! 

After a few months, I felt ready to try again. However this time, I carried out research first. I studied the tone and style of the magazine I intended to submit to, and what type of letter was likely to be picked for publication, plus the subject of it eg: I learnt that positive feedback about a previous feature was popular.

I kept my submission short and snappy - and my hard work paid off. I was absolutely thrilled to see my letter published in What's on TV magazine. I was delighted to receive a payment of £10 for little more than a paragraph.

Since then, I've had lots of letters published in magazines such as Woman's Weekly, The People's Friend, Yours, My Weekly, WebUser, Vegetarian Living, Take a Break and Your Cat. 

How do I find ideas for letters? It's easy – you need to think of what could appeal to readers. For Woman's Weekly, I once wrote about the tests I undertook for breast cancer. I urged readers not to ignore any call- ups. (Thankfully, I was okay).
I've also been featured with several opinion pieces for the 'You're Telling us' page in Take a Break magazine. They pay £50 for each one published. 

The ' You're telling us' question can be found on the TAB facebook page. They request a photo of yourself and your age, too. TAB also post requests for true- life reader experience type of articles. I've had 'A letter to your younger self' piece published and a 'Christmas cringes' one too. These can pay more - up to £100.

Some publications offer a prize to the star letter only. I attempt it, and often I don't win the prize, yet I'm still pleased to see my piece published.

I've won a small beauty prize for my star letter in the free TESCO magazine and being selected for Your Cat's star letter scooped me a range of cat toys and biscuits.UPDATE: The Tesco mag now offers a swanky kitchen mixer for their star prize letter!

My prize letters in another monthly magazine netted me a free one year magazine subscription – twice! (A fantastic saving of around £80).
If you have a hobby, eg computers, cooking - pick a suitable magazine that accompanies it. For instance, my hubby is a very good cook and baker. He's had several recipes published in Take a Break's My Favourite Recipe magazine. (He scooped £25 per recipe).

It's not just letters. Some magazines also publish short poems. I've had several poems published in Yours and The People's Friend. They like rhyming, upbeat material.
Yours paid me £10 in gift vouchers per poem. The vouchers can be spent practically anywhere. They pay £10 gift voucher for a published letter too.

Don't forget that fillers such as top tips, funny photos, a 'pet of the week' type of feature, puzzles, jokes, beauty queries and 'items to be valued' pieces are high in demand, too. 

I've had my childhood teddy valued in Real People magazine (I earned £25) my cat has been featured in My Weekly (Another £25) and I've had beauty questions featured in Take a Break. (They pay £50 for this). 

I've also made it to the TAB letters page too, with their 'What a laugh!' slot. I was £50 richer for just a few lines of text. A writer friend of mine likes to create her own word puzzles (not necessarily crosswords) and she has these published regularly in Real People magazine. If published, the fee for this is either £30 or £50.

Although you won't be able to earn mega bucks with letters etc, the odd £10 here and there soon adds up. Bear in mind that no matter how many letters you submit, you won't be chosen every week. Consider the fact that the editor or team will become familiar with your name. However, saying that, I think they do appreciate regular contributors - just don't swamp them!

Publications are always looking for well- written, entertaining, intelligent letters that fit in well with the editorial style of the magazine. Always be cheerful and polite and don't waffle, and make sure you follow the magazine's submission instructions. It's all mainly done via email now. 

Your subject heading should be: 'Letter for consideration. 'Work can be edited, changed or even added to – to me, this doesn't matter as I want to be published and I want to be paid. 

Some magazines let you know beforehand if your letter has been selected, and some don't. If you sub regularly, this means a weekly scan of the magazines in shops to check if your piece is in. Yet some prizes arrive completely out of the blue.

One Christmas, I won a prize of a large jigsaw puzzle, yet I hadn't a clue who had sent it or what publication my letter was in. All I had was a snail mail letter saying 'Congratulations!' from the makers of the jigsaw, which didn't really help. 

Later, I realised I must have been awarded star letter in 'Down your way', a Yorkshire based nostalgic magazine. I quickly emailed the Ed and he confirmed it. (UPDATE: I've won this prize a second time with a piece about phone boxes. As it was approaching Christmas, it came in very handy as a gift for a jigsaw lover).

So, what's stopping you from having a go? If I can do it, so can you! Get writing and good luck!


Lisa Macgregor said...

Thanks for some great tips, Sharon. I had a letter published about 20 years ago in TAB and earned £25 for it. But since then I've become so focussed on writing short stories for womags I'd completely forgotten the possibilities to earn a little extra cash by writing letters. And with Patsy's recent blogs about fillers, this is definitely an area I'm going to look into. Thanks again x

Carolb said...

Very useful information, Sharon, thank you for sharing it with us.

I will definitely be looking out for more opportunities from now on. :-)

ados123 said...

Thanks, Sharon and Patsy. Useful blog post.

Julie Day said...

Sounds as though you have had as much success as me. I've won prizes worth up to £100 or more. Had a break last year but getting into the zone again now. My advice would be to go with magazines that feature articles that interest you.

Sally Zigmond said...

Over 10 years ago, when we were doing up a wreck of a house to live in I wrote to one of those Home Improvements magazines (I can't remember which one, though.)I did actually enjoy the magazine and still read it from time to time. I wrote a letter to say how I had amassed a collection of their magazine to scour it for articles on bathroom and kitchen fittings, floor coverings, light fittings, curtain fabrics, ornaments etc to maintain a modern but Victorian look. I didn't over-egg the praise. I won star letter! My prize was a fabulous large kitchen wall-clock. I still love it.

The best way to get your letter published or even win something is to be upbeat and humorous even if writing about disasters and thank the magazine in question for their help. They like to know they're appreciated. Well, we all do, don't we?

Eunice Mussage said...

Lots of useful information. Thank you for the tips Sharon.